2024 Red Mass Reflection on the Shreveport Martyrs

Servants of God ~ 1873 Shreveport Yellow Fever Priests

 

The following is the text of the keynote remarks from Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum of the
Diocese of Shreveport on the occasion of the 30th Annual Red Mass Society Banquet on
Thursday, May 2, 2024. In attendance was His Eminence Christophe Cardinal Pierre, Apostolic
Nuncio to the United States, with The Most Reverend Francis I. Malone, Bishop of Shreveport,
and several Louisiana justices, along with other distinguished members of the bench and bar and
many who work in the legal realm. Three hundred guests were present. This special event, along
with the Red Mass of May 3, was dedicated to the Five Servants of God, the Shreveport Martyrs
of 1873. Father Mangum serves as the Episcopal Delegate for their Cause of Beatification and
Canonization.

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Thank you, Red Mass Society, for hosting this very nice dinner and evening together.
And thank you for honoring Shreveport’s Servants of God, the Five Priests, at
tomorrow’s annual Red Mass.
Thank you, Bishop Malone, for extending their invitation to me to speak on the topic of
the five priests.
Your Eminence, Cardinal Pierre: We all are most grateful for your ongoing enthusiastic
support of this Cause of their canonization and your making their story known, and
helping see these Servants of God advance to becoming Venerable.
Our diocese and city are truly blessed by your presence. You know so much about our
Servants of God as they continue to become known in their homeland and yours,
Brittany, France.
Many from Brittany proudly embrace them as their Servants of God, their native sons,
and are attentive to this Cause for Canonization, praying through their intercession!
Friends, I know not what you did this afternoon… but I spent it turning this 60 minute
speech into a 20 minute one. Wish me (and yourselves) luck.
I will provide you with lessons in history, the Latin language, geography, procedural law
and Sacred Scripture as they all come together in the lives of our Servants of God.
Three parts: #1. I wish to speak with you about three Latin words from the Gospel of
John 15:13, Maiorem Hac Dilectionem (“greater love than this”).
#2. I will speak of a papal document with the same title Maiorem Hac Dilectionem and
the legal side of the canonization process.

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And then #3 I’ll conclude with some implications for you members of the Red Mass
Society and us all.
First, a little Introduction before I launch into the talk – then my 20-minute talk will
begin.
Catholic history in Louisiana is rich, as we all know, going back to the original Spanish
explorers of the new world in the sixteenth century. The first ecclesiastical jurisdiction to
care for those living in the Floridas and Louisiana (as in the area of the Louisiana
Purchase) was based in in Havana, Cuba. In 1793, the “Diocese of Louisiana and the
Two Floridas” (that was the official name) was formally erected with New Orleans as its
see city and the church of St Louis serving as the new Cathedral.
After the Louisiana Purchase, the overall population grew, as well as the Catholic
presence. As new territories and states were being formed so were Catholic jurisdictions.
In 1825, Alabama and the Floridas became their own diocese (with Mobile being the see
city). The following year, the Diocese of St. Louis was formed, taking with it Arkansas
to the south and the states north to the US border.
At the same time, Mississippi became a diocese, with its see city being Natchez. Thus in
1826, the bishop of New Orleans now cared for all Catholics in just the state of
Louisiana.
The state was rapidly growing, New Orleans becomes an archdiocese in 1850, and in
1853, the Diocese of Natchitoches is erected (which encompasses what is today the
Diocese of Alexandria and the Diocese of Shreveport … the entire northern part of our
state).
The Holy See appoints as the founding bishop of Diocese of Natchitoches the Breton,
missionary priest serving as the Dean of the Natchitoches, Auguste Marie Martin from
Saint Malo, Brittany France (the same beautiful and historic town His Eminence is from).
More on Bishop Martin later.
Bishop Martin had four priests in his new diocese of 23,000 square miles, a couple of
religious priests, and all non-French. He needed more priests. So the following year,
1854, before taking a journey to his homeland where Catholicism has its roots back to the
5th century and any number of saints, and history of plagues and epidemics, Bishop
Martin sent out something like this following prospectus hoping to bring back with him
recruits from Brittany to serve in the new diocese:
We offer you no salary, no recompense,
no holiday or pension.
But, much hard work, a poor dwelling,

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few consolations, many disappointments,
frequent sickness, a violent or lonely death,
and an unknown grave.
And they came! They were ready for any and everything… a long life or short… as long
as they could accomplish the will of God.
I presume everyone here knows about each of their lives and the situation of the Yellow
Fever in Shreveport (the third worst in US history); and how one out of every four
people contracted the disease and died; and how, one priest after the other entered the
quarantined area to care for anyone who was sick; and how each died but not before
receiving the Anointing of the Sick as the baton of care of the souls was passed from one
priest to the next.
When people begged their priest not to leave Natchitoches to help, saying that he goes to
his death, he replied: “I know it. It is the sure and shortest path to heaven.”
As another left Monroe, he who was formerly hated by the people and ostracized, now
beloved to Catholic and non-Catholic alike, was met as the stagecoach was prepared to
leave from Shreveport. They too pleaded that he not depart to his death, and from the
stagecoach (as if his final pulpit) he told them: “Write to the bishop and tell him that I
am going to my death: it is my duty and I must go!”
Go to ShreveportMartyrs.org their lives, the Yellow Fever, words of that prospectus are
there, too.
OK. That concludes my introduction. Now the talk begins.
#1. Maiorem Hac Dilectionem
This Sunday is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and the Gospel reading is from that beautiful
section of the great theological discourse, Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, in the context of the
Last Supper.
This is the only time we hear this discourse in the context of the three year cycle of
readings at Mass, and it happens to be this Sunday. In it Jesus says to His disciples:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
Greater love than this has no one,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Greater love than this has no one
Greater love than this: Maiorem Hac Dilectionem

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Sunday I will be with my people of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Monroe, whose
founding pastor was Servant of God Louis Gergaud, one of the five.
After proclaiming this Gospel reading, I will preach, mindful of my congregation, and, in
that pastoral context, I will speak of this command to love and that we are indeed
considered “His friends” if we do as He commands.
This evening, I am mindful of my “congregation,” you of the bar and bench and those in
anyway connected with the legal realm as I speak of this same phrase “Greater love than
this.” Hopefully, you have even seen the award winning documentary about the Servants
of God simply entitled The Five Priests, in which six people were interviewed: five of
whom are present here:
Bishop Malone, thank you for your role and your words. Regarding these zealous priests
you said: “They were not concerned about what would happen to them if they came here
but were concerned about what would happen to the people if they didn’t.”
And Dr. Cheryl White, whom Bishop Malone appointed to Chair the Historical
Commission for this Cause of Canonization (more on that later): she is one of the
principal authors of the three books on our Servants of God.
Ryan Smith, Assistant Vice President of Clinic Operations at Oschner LSU, and an
officer in the US Navy Reserve, is the principal author of our first book The Surest Path,
about all five of the priests.
I was interviewed in the documentary as well.
Cheryl, Ryan and I, while visiting the crusader castle Belvoir in the Holy Land and
looking out toward Jordan in the Spring of 2016 lamented that no one has told their story.
With the zeal of pilgrim in the land made holy by Jesus Christ and His mother and the
apostles, and all those before them, we committed to making them better known
throughout the Diocese of Shreveport and beyond.
The fifth present here is, of course, his Eminence, Cardinal Pierre, who features
prominently in documentary, and who helped me and Dr White and Ryan Smith (along
with Fr. Kelby Tingle) navigate our way throughout Brittany by setting up meetings for
us as we visited all the sites related to the founding bishop of the Diocese of Natchitoches
(Bishop Auguste Marie Martin, ordained in the St. Vincent Cathedral of St. Malo where,
in the same Cathedral, more than a century later, Cardinal Pierre was ordained a priest
and later bishop).
Cardinal Pierre wrote the foreword to two of our books all about the Five whom you
honor at tomorrow’s Red Mass, and he has agreed to write the foreword to our third book

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highlighting the founding pastor of the first parish of Shreveport in whose parish
boundaries we are right now, Fr. Jean Pierre (no relation to Cardinal Pierre, that we know
of), though they are from the same area of the beautiful Brittany and the thoroughly
Catholic area where our five priests were born and raised and formed in such a way that
they would later most willing demonstrate no greater love than this, to lay down their
lives for Shreveporters, friends and strangers, 150 years ago.
Maiorem Hac Dilectionem MAIOREM
Many a Shreveporter knows that word, because of the four initials of the Jesuit motto
inscribed above the front entrance to our Cathedral or because many of you received a
Jesuit education.
MAIOREM It is the M of AMDG ad MAIOREM Dei Gloria. For the GREATER Glory
of God. That word is easy enough.
Maiorem HAC
We might be more familiar with the demonstrative pronoun “hic,” which means “this” or
“here.” Those of you who have been on any of my pilgrimages to the Holy Land know
that word, HIC… it’s everywhere… “the Word was made flesh HIC” in Nazareth.
“Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish HIC” in Tabgha. The word is on all the plaques and
in all the prayers at the sites mentioned throughout Sacred Scripture.
HAC is the ablative singular form of the pronoun HIC, and can translate to “by this,”
“with this,” or “than this.” Maiorem HAC Greater than this
Maiorem Hac DILECTIONEM Latin, being a rich and nuanced language, has several
words for our one English word “love”, each with its own shade of meaning. Here are
some of them:
I say LOVE and you Latin scholars and anyone knowledgeable of a romance lang think
of the word Amor, amour, amore. It’s the most common Latin word for love, which
encompasses “affection, romantic love, and desire.”
Caritas: This word is often translated as “charity”, but it also carries connotations of
selfless love, kindness, and goodwill.
Cupiditas: primarily means “desire” or “longing,” but it can also convey a strong desire
or craving for something, whether it be material possessions, power or other worldly
pleasures.
There are several other words: including … Dilectio.

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Maiorem Hac DILECTIONEM greater LOVE than this
(I’m getting you ready to hear this Gospel reading this Sunday.)
DILECTIONEM is often used in theological or philosophical contexts to describe the
love of God or divine love, as well as the love between individuals in a spiritual or
profound sense, transcending mere affection or desire. It’s associated (please listen up)
It’s associated with selfless devotion, reverence, a profound and transformative force,
which enriches human experience and elevates the soul. “Laying down one’s life”?
There is no Greater love than THIS… enriching and elevating the souls around you,
selfless, divine – as Jesus loved – a force so profound and transformative as evidenced in
the lives of the five Servants of God.
Therefore, the Church says in the papal document, Maiorem Hac Dilectionem:
Worthy of special consideration and honor are those Christians who, following
more than closely the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily
and freely offered their life for others.
That’s the DILECTIONEM. That’s the love we are dealing with when we speak of our
Servants of God.
Seventy years after the 1873 Yellow Fever, with the memory of the five priests still alive
in the minds and hearts of the parishioners of Holy Trinity and citizens of this city, in
March of 1942, Bishop Daniel Desmond made “his last episcopal visit to Shreveport.”
He said on the occasion of the installation of the five stained glass windows depicting
each of the five priests (you’ll see them tomorrow during the Red Mass) and the
occasion of the blessing of the Calvary monument at St. Joseph Cemetery where they are
buried… He said these words just months after the U.S. had just entered World War II…
therefore, all the more poignant and relevant are his words:
Valorous deeds of war deserve our acclaim.
Heroics based on the love of God and the love of souls should likewise touch the
hearts of all… that these men died in line of a holy duty makes their love and
immolation no less beautiful because they did not bear a weapon of destruction.
We are on hallowed ground today, for we stand over the graves of heroes. [I
pray] One day Holy Mother Church may find a place for them in her calendar of
Saints.
And then he quoted the first words etched on the bronze plaque on that Calvary
monument: “Greater love than this has no one, than to lay down his life for his friends.”

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Maiorem Hac Dilectionem are the first three words of the almost seven year old apostolic
letter by which Pope Francis opened the path to sainthood to “those who made a free and
voluntary offer of their lives in pure and final fulfillment of Christian virtue on God’s
earth, to ease the suffering of humanity.”
With this new path to canonization open, we began the process to get them on the
Church’s calendar of saints that Bishop Desmond dreamt of eighty years earlier. This
new way is this (oblatio vitae) which means “the offer of life”:
a) a free and voluntary offer of life and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a
certain and untimely death;
b) a nexus between the offer of life and premature death;
c) the exercise, at least as ordinarily possible, of Christian virtues before the offer
of life and, then, unto death;
d) the existence of a reputation of holiness and of signs, at least after death;
There are four phases to this meticulous process of canonization:
The Diocesan Phase
The Roman Phase
The Beatification Phase
The Canonization Phase
I’ll only speak about the first The Diocesan Phase as that is where we find our Five
Priests. In the U.S. government, the president has Cabinet positions. Well, the pope has
something similar called, not Cabinet but Dicastery. Regarding the path to Canonization,
the Dicastery of the Causes of Saints issued an Instruction, with the pope’s approval, “For
Conducting Diocesan or Eparchial Inquiries in the Causes of Saints.”
It is a 14,000-word document, broken into six parts, subdivided into thirty titles and then
chapters, all about every aspect of what we are doing right now in Shreveport regarding
the Cause. It outlines who has jurisdiction to investigate the lives of prospective saints
(e.g., the Diocese of Shreveport has jurisdiction for handling the Five Priests because this
is the place of their deaths) and so we can be the Petitioner of the Cause.
There’s the Presentation of the Libellus, Acceptance of the Libellus, Consultation with
Other Bishops which I did as Diocesan Administrator consulting the bishops of the state
before they were known as Servants of God, and which Bishop Malone did before all the
bishops of the country this past June after they were known as Servants of God. Before
they received the title, we had received the “Nihil Obstat” the approval of the Holy See to
proceed with the investigation.

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There is the Instruction of the Cause. I’ll read some of the titles and chapters of this
document: Officials of the Inquiry in particular. Episcopal Delegate. Promotor of
Justice. Notary
It speaks of Gathering of Documentary Proofs, Theological Censors regarding all the
writings produced, and Experts in Historical Matters (“Historical Commission”).
Our Historical Commission is made up of Dr. Cheryl White, who also serves on the
Tribunal for the Diocese of Knoxville and a cause they have for canonization of one of
their priests.
Fr. Taylor Reynolds, Diocese of Alexandria, and Emanuele Spedicato, Professor of the
Pontifical Gregorian University, both of whom have served on any number of
commissions. Mind you, the Historical Commission is bound to report everything they
find, even that which might speak against a person being considered a candidate for
canonization. To date the Historical Commission has produced a 5000 page document.
The Papal Document continues:
Gathering of Proofs from Witnesses: not just eye witnesses, obviously, but anyone who
can speak of the “fama sanctitatis,” the fame of sanctity, their cult.
Interrogatories, Citations for the Sessions, the Opening Session of the Inquiry which we
had last October 8, in the context of Mass, taking of oaths and all, televised on EWTN.
Participation of the Promotor of Justice. Then there’s the Closing of the Inquiry, the
Publication of the Acts, and the Translation of the Acts.
There’s also a whole section on the Mortal Remains of a Servant of God and relics and
the preservation and transfer of the remains.
And finally the role of the Carrier, (a role I wish to have) who hand-delivers three sets of
the original documents, sealed with ribbons, wax and seals. Once received and in the
presence of the Postulator and Dicastery officials, they cut the ribbons and the Diocesan
Phase concludes and the Roman Phase begins. That happy day will hopefully take place
in October or November of this year. Then we await the decision of the Holy Father as to
whether they are to be deemed Venerable!
Why have all these such norms regarding a declaration of a person’s holiness of life, for
a very spiritual matter? The rules and regulations surrounding every phase of the
canonization process serve to uphold the integrity, credibility, and solemnity of the
Church’s recognition of individuals as saints.

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Canonization involves a thorough examination of the candidate’s life, virtues, and
reputation for holiness. The norms help to ensure that this examination is conducted
rigorously and fairly, with proper documentation and evidence.
Given the gravity of this declaration, the Church implements rules and regulations to
minimize the possibility of error or misjudgment in the process. There’s consistency and
uniformity in how cases are evaluated and adjudicated.
The canonization process has evolved over centuries, being developed and refined over
time. Adherence to norms upholds the sanctity of the process and enhances public
confidence in the Church’s judgments regarding sainthood. It shows the Church’s
commitment to thoroughness, transparency, and accountability in the recognition of
saints.
The Postulator for our Cause lives in Rome, Dr. Waldery Hilgeman. Together with Dr.
White, Fr. Kelby and me, we met in Rome in early March of this year at the Vatican
offices that deal with the Causes of the Saints in order to meet with a full-time official
there, Rev.Turek, all about our Cause who we are proceeding correctly, that we are on
track.
What’s NEXT: A solid week in July has been set aside for the receiving of testimony
from the witnesses. We will be calling about 30 people. Once everything is done and
Bishop Malone writes his final votum, then we hand the Cause over to Rome.
#3. I promised you 3 parts. Here is Part 3. What can you do?
Pray… Pray through the intercession of our Servants of God! Read their lives and chose
one as a special patron… actually the Servant of God will choose you; you will know.
Yes, you can pray through the intercession of all as one group, but it is best at this point
to select one and stick to that one. On your tables you will final holy cards with a brief
explanation of their lives and a prayer for beatification, with which I conclude this talk:
Almighty and merciful God, You filled the hearts of your virtuous and obedient sons with
apostolic zeal such that they left their homeland to spend their lives of priestly ministry in
a newly erected diocese, and their work proved rich in the holy fruits of selfless service
which have lived after them.
With a charity that emulates Christ and without hesitation, they knowingly offered their
lives and persevered with this determination unto death, desiring to console those sick
and dying in the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873 with both bodily and spiritual care
instilling in them the hope of eternal life, thus robbing death of its terrors.
Grant us the grace to selflessly and ardently love our neighbor and fully trust in Your
providential love, as did these martyrs to their charity whose witness continues to inspire
many to holiness of life.

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If it be Your will, O God, glorify our beloved Servants of God and have them included in
the calendar of saints. May all know of their heroic virtue and holiness and imitate their
love for You and Your Church. Amen
Red Mass Society, thank you again for honoring at tomorrow’s Mass our Servants of God
and, for your presence, your Eminence, so greatly highlighting the worthwhileness of our
efforts to get them on the Church’s calendar of Saints. Thank you.